Austria forward Marko Arnautovic has issued a statement apologising for his ‘heated words’ and the manner of his celebration after scoring against North Macedonia.
The former Stoke City and West Ham striker scored his nation’s third goal in their 3-1 victory over the tournament newcomers in Sunday’s clash in Bucharest.
The talismanic 32-year-old had been introduced as a second half substitute and played a big part in helping Austria take the game away from the underdogs.
However, despite scoring a goal which saw him take the ball away from goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski before slotting the ball home one minute from time, it was his reaction after the goal which truly caught the eye.
Rather than celebrating or appearing happy that he had opened his account for the tournament, Arnautovic appeared to be angered and possibly antagonistic.
The experienced forward seemed to be shouting a tirade of potential abuse against his opponents, leading to his national team captain David Alaba appearing to attempt to quieten him and close his mouth.
Arnautovic is alleged to have shouted the words “I’ll f*** your Albanian mother” in the direction of his opponents, with the striker’s apology on Monday directly referencing the people of both North Macedonia and Albania.
Arnautovic wrote on his Instagram account : “There were some heated words yesterday in the emotions of the game for which I apologise – especially to the people from North Macedonia and Albania.”
“I would like to say one thing very clearly. I AM NOT A RACIST! I have friends in almost every country and I stand for diversity. Everyone who knows me is aware of that.”
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Arnautovic’s father is Serbian, and when previously facing that nation at international level with Austria, he is quoted as saying by Futbolgrad : “I am an Orthodox Christian, my father is Serbian, and I like hearing the Serbian anthem.”
He is also quoted as previously saying earlier in his career: “I want to play for Serbia.”
The political situation in the Balkans has been volatile and constantly evolving since the breakup of Yugoslavia, leading to increased tensions between its nation states.
North Macedonia and Serbia are two of the nations that previously comprised the Yugoslav state, alongside Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Kosovo – the latter of which is the most recent nation to be recognised by UEFA.
Indeed, North Macedonia has only been titled as such since 2018 after being renamed from simply ‘Macedonia’ due to a dispute over the name of the territory from Greece, due to the ambiguity of the historical scope of the region.